I learned the truth of an old management maxim: If you want to change something, pay attention to it. Here’s the question I ask first: Do you believe you’ll need to see “data” to know whether training is working or not. HEG training is aerobic exercising of the brain’s executive center so that the key area increases its ability to activate more quickly and maintain its energy levels over time as required. If that doesn’t happen, you won’t be very satisfied with HEG. It won’t matter what the graphs look like. With any aerobic exercise, the goal is to get into the target energy range and sustain it longer and longer–improve the supply of oxygenated blood. The graphs show whether you are getting into the “training range” for your brain, just like a pulse meter for the heart.
Watching what happens during a session: the client’s ability to increase levels quickly, how long the higher levels can be maintained. How long does it take the client, when you tell him to concentrate: “don’t think, don’t try. Just watch the line (bar) and figure out how you make it go up.” Most will fairly quickly figure it out, focusing intently on something. You can watch what percent they increased from the baseline, how quickly the rise from baseline to high activation is done, how long is the plateau sustained, and when it starts a clear downward trend. You can “compare” sessions if you want to, or you can just use them to show the client improvements. But the place to focus is on specific training goals.
When I was a hospital administrator doing turnarounds for big hospital management companies, I learned the truth of an old management maxim: If you want to change something, pay attention to it. You are doing 3 different segments in most HEG sessions: left edge, right edge, and center of the forehead. I do them in different orders each time because the strongest response can usually be achieved on the first site. But training the first already has an effect on the second, so increases can be harder to achieve there–even harder in the third. But it’s doing the exercise that makes the changes. Help the client define specifically what changes are desired, and help track what happens in those areas–and others not expected.
With nIR you aren’t measuring temperature. You are measuring the relationship between red and infrared light picked up at the sensor (under the white dot) combined with the infrared temperature of the area being trained. It’s a combination of two different indicators, so I don’t see the measures as should show an upward trend over a series of sessions–though they well may.
Focus on what you want to change in the real world. Give feedback on performance within a session using the graphs, DVD or whatever kind of feedback the client finds helpful.
HEG is Analogous to Aerobic Exercise
Using my favorite analogy for nIR–that is aerobic exercise– we can agree that a person who works out and gets in the better aerobic condition in their cardiopulmonary system doesn’t HAVE to race around all the time. He just improves the ability to increase activity levels and maintain them for longer periods. He can still sit on the couch and watch a chick flick and drink beer (or perhaps white wine) as well as he could before getting in better shape.
The fact that a person has a brain dominated by high frequencies doesn’t necessarily mean that she is in good shape in terms of perfusion–the supply system for getting blood out into the neighborhoods where neurons work and live. In fact, since the PFC is the center of a good deal of the inhibitory control systems in the brain, and one could argue fairly effectively that any brain that is producing lots of beta and high-beta for no functional reason is lacking in control, improving prefrontal function could actually reduce excess fast activity.
A few interesting facts about the cardiovascular system I learned from a physician at one of my recent workshops. The average human body has around 60,000 MILES of arteries/capillaries and veins, enough to circle the earth 2.5 times! There are only 10 pints–about 5 quarts–of blood in your body. Not hard to see that, at any given time, a large percentage of the blood vessels aren’t carrying much if any blood!
Think of the cardiovascular system like a highway system: There are superhighways, other large roads, small roads, and little neighborhood block-or-two-long streets. Even with all the cars in the US, it’s probably fair to estimate that, at any given point in time, most of the square feet of streets/roads/highways DON’T have any cars on them! But there are times when most of those square feet of paving ARE needed to carry traffic. Now let’s imagine a little beach town called PFCity. it has some large highways capable of delivering traffic to it, but because it’s a sleepy little town, there are only a few roads leading from the highways to the town–and even fewer streets and drives for getting around within the town. That’s not a problem except maybe 2-3 times a year when people from large cities decide to go to the beach, and they all arrive on the same day on the highways. Traffic backs up because once cars get off the highway, the roads quickly jam (they’re just simple two-lanes), and when you actually reach the town itself, to get to the beach or any of the bed-and-breakfasts, where people stay, is a nightmare. If this only happens one or two times a year, people grumble and maybe change their plans, but no big deal.
But what happens if a new mayor is elected who decides to really promote the town as a gorgeous tourist haven to pump up the local economy? Now nearly every weekend there are traffic jams. The state could get involved (if it had any money) widening the roads that lead from the highways to the town (more revenue for the town, more taxes for the state). And the mayor could get the town to build a much more complete grid of streets and parking, etc.
Still, during large parts of the year, this will be overkill. But when the traffic needs/wants to come to PFCity, it can get there and move around more effectively. The first few times I do HEG with a client, using the graph page I prefer for nIR training, I use those sessions to show the client how good the distribution system is in his PFC. Some people spike up 8-10% almost immediately and then crash just as fast, stumble along a little, then spike and crash again. Others run up more slowly and are able to sustain a level for a minute or two before starting to see their ratios fall. Those patterns in the ratio tend to be pretty good analogs of their attention capabilities. But each time we train–as long as we are doing so 2-3 times a week–the brain calls on the body for more blood, and the body tries to increase the traffic. After a while, the body says, “you know, I’m over it with these emergency demands for blood in the PFC; let’s just build some new capillary beds–or make the ones we have denser–so we can get the blood out into the tissue faster and more efficiently.” And that’s what happens (exactly the same thing that happens in your heart and lungs when you do aerobic exercise). You stress the system, then give the highway department some time to work on improvements. Then you stress it again, and further improvements are made. Eventually, I look for a client able to raise her ratio by7-12% (more or less) within 30 seconds to a minute. The PFC becomes much quicker kicking into a higher gear. And then I look for the plateau to hold (perhaps with some additional rises as it goes along) for another 9 minutes. When the client can do that, he/she has optimized the distribution system, so these neurons, which should be the most active in the brain, have all the oxygen and glucose they need, and great trash service, to work at their peak.